LILA DOWNS La Cantina Narada
La Cantina "Entre Copa y Copa"
(EMI/ Narada 0946-3-34248-2-1)
Culturally and artistically, Latin Grammy winner Lila Downs continues to develop as one of the most compelling singers to straddle the US-Mexico border. Her fifth release is an essay on the Mexican working-class ranchera ballad and other popular forms, poignant songs of love, betrayal and retribution. Three Downs originals open the album. La Cumbia del Mole is her tribute to the women of her native Oaxaca, in southern Mexico (a striking music video of the song, filmed in the Oaxaca market, can be found on the artist's website); an English-language version of the song appears later in the album. El Corrido de Tacha "La Teibolera", with Flaco Jiménez (accordeon) and Max Baca (bajo sexto), gives a Tex-Mex feel to the tale of a young woman determined to overcome the depredations of being abandoned by her family to a forced marriage. Agua de Rosas is Downs's salute to a female shaman of Juchitán, Oaxaca, who prescribed a rosewater remedy to banish her sadness.
The balance of the album interprets some of Mexico's best-loved popular songs, beginning with José Alfredo Jiménez's classic Tu Recuerdo y Yo, and La Cama de Piedra (Bed Of Stone), whose plaintive refrain wholly captures the ranchera spirit: "If it's a crime to love you, then let them sentence me to death." Shifting genres, El Relampago is a son calentano from western Mexico's Michoacan 'hot lands', combining a forceful chorus whose harmonising vocals play upon a lively array of harp, vihuela and violin. But as with all the material covered here, the arrangements are pure Downs, mixing harp and strings, marimba, percussion, hip-hop, DJ techniques (courtesy of Charanga Cakewalk's Michael Ramos, Aneiro Taño and Downs's partner, Paul Cohen, clarinettist and musical director), Levantine modes, slashing electric guitar, Mexican brass band accents, and the artist's sultry spoken interjections.
Downs's remarkable talent for mimicry, her operatic reach, her sense of drama, her passion for the music and its land of origin, make this another landmark in her artistic development.
Review from fRoots magazine Aug/Sept 2006.
Album Review on bbc.co.uk/music
Read other people's comments then Tell us what you think:
Peter Schüsselbauer Regensburg Germany
Miguel Morán, Cancun, Mexico
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